A berth in the final of the World Cup was at stake and England were 120 minutes away from having a chance to bring football home, but a 2-1 loss to Croatia means they will instead play for third place on Saturday.
England came off a 2-0 win against Sweden while Croatia defeated hosts Russia on penalty kicks. England’s inability to close out the match after scoring early saw Croatia grow in confidence. A lone goal by Kieran Trippier was followed by an equalizer by Ivan Perisic and an eventual winner in extra time by Mario Mandzukic. Emotionally, Gareth Southgate’s team went from the highest of highs to the absolute lowest of lows across the 120 minutes.
Kieran Trippier gave the Three Lions a dream start. Just minutes into the semi-final match, Trippier gave England a 1-0 lead following a fantastic free kick. Gareth Southgate’s men looked sharper and quicker when compared to their counterparts on the day but as the match went on, Croatia grew in confidence and England let the match slip away.
Looking at Twelve’s leader board, Kyle Walker found himself number one overall and whether or not that is a good thing is for you to decide. The Manchester City man made 13 clearances inside his own area and looked less and less comfortable as the match went on. Looking at his graph below, Walker was very busy and it’s clear to see why he finished number one on the England leader board.
England’s main target man and 2018 FIFA World Cup top goal scorer Harry Kane had a match to forget. A double miss in the first half could have easily given his country a 2-0 lead heading into half time but it wasn’t his night.
Taking a look at his chart (when selecting the ‘only important actions’ slider), we see he had two misses inside the Croatian penalty area and eight aerial duels lost. Not a good performance from England’s number nine and with only eight minutes on the pitch, Jamie Vardy found himself doing very little with one foul to his name. Not a good 120 minutes for England’s attack.
It was a memorable run from England. A 2-1 win against Tunisia was followed by a massive 6-1 win against Panama, before losing 1-0 to Belgium to complete their group stage. They exercised their penalty shootout demons in the round of 16 by defeating Colombia and went on to qualify to their first semi-final appearance at a FIFA World Cup since the 1990 edition by defeating Sweden.
If a fairly young England squad with a relatively new manager in Gareth Southgate can build upon their performances in Russia, their future is definitely a bright one. Football might not be coming home but this England team can go home with their heads held high which is something they have not been able to do for some time.